“Most abusive men put on a charming face for their communities, creating a sharp split
between their public image and their private treatment of women and children.”
- Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men -
(continuing from last time...)
When I went to my parent’s home to pick up my baby girl after school the next day, I discovered that my ex had gone to their place after he’d been released from jail that morning. Of course, he downplayed the story making it sound like we’d just had a little argument and I had overreacted. My parents were shocked that police had been called and he’d been taken into custody, and because they had no idea what had been going on in our home for years, they said to me “Well, you know how he is. He has a bit of a temper but he’s not a bad guy. And if he gets a record for this, it may cost him his job.” The last part was the driving force for his visit to them. Fear of losing his high-status position.
In all the years I’d been with my ex, not they or anyone else knew my story. I kept it a secret. Why? Because I wondered what was wrong with me. Because I was convinced that I was usually at fault, if not always. And mostly, because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. My ex was very well-liked by friends and colleagues. His public image was impeccable. He had a high-paying, prominent position in a large company. He was sociable and charming and fun and ambitious and generous with time and money. He was everyone’s friend. Except mine. And if I ever hinted at a grievance, I was obviously overreacting. Hypersensitive. Too hard on him. Impatient. Demanding. And obviously not very appreciative of this great guy I was lucky enough to have. As if he was doing me a favour by being with me.
So I didn't fault my parents for being charmed by him. And I certainly understood how they could be manipulated emotionally by his smooth talking. After all, I’d lived that for years and was still living it. All they’d ever known was that occasionally we argued, nothing more. And didn't every couple do that, anyways?
And the guilt-inducing began with my parents and then moved to my older daughter who came home after that first weekend confused and upset that daddy was so sad because mommy was being mean to him. And that daddy might not be able to see her the next weekend if no one drove him there. Because he didn't have a car, mommy took it away. Mommy was the bad one, daddy was a victim.
For two weeks I stood my ground, fighting what I’d been conditioned to believe for years: that I was the one with the problem. That I made him treat me this way. Brought all this trouble onto myself. That I was selfish and ungrateful, and worst of all, unbalanced. Because no one had ever told me otherwise. Because the idea of emotional abuse never occurred to me. And that is why in all the posts I've written so far, not once does the word abuse appear anywhere.
|My girls gave me so much strength.|
When I finally got up the nerve to go inside, I couldn't look the police officer who came to the counter in the eye as I said to him “There was an incident at my home a couple of weeks ago and...well...I've thought about it. And...um...I need to drop the charges. It was a mistake.”
I gave him the information needed and he walked to the back of the room where there were rows and rows of files. When he found what he was looking for, I watched him with my heart pounding in my chest as he read and read and read through the paperwork. Every now and then he’d glance over at me and then continue reading. He knows it’s me he knows it’s me he knows it’s me.
It felt like eternity until he finally put the file away and returned to the counter. And when he did, he said to me “I remember your husband very well. He was completely out of control when we brought him in. And it took a long time for him to calm down before we could speak to him. It was my partner who actually interviewed him.”
“I know he was very upset.” I said, head bowed. “But I made him mad. I make him mad sometimes because I...I don’t always...cooperate. I'm...difficult to be with. I push his buttons.”
At that, the officer leaned forward and said “Well, maybe he should get his buttons fixed.” My eyes filled with tears as he continued. “I've met many guys like this one. He is not a nice person. Nor is he a victim. He is a bully. Angry and aggressive. Entitled and demanding. Constantly blaming you and everyone else for his behaviour. Even when he breaks the law. It’s always your fault, no? He's pushed to these extremes, isn't he? And he wouldn't be this way if you behaved as you should, did what you were asked to, stopped talking back...am I right?”
I was crying by now. Nodding. Ohmygod...yes yes yes...how does he know all this?
“Have you ever heard of emotional abuse?” He asked. I shook my head no. Not because I didn't know what it was but because it just couldn't be that. No no no...it's impossible impossible impossible.
He reached underneath, pulled out a business card, placed it on the counter and slid it towards me. I didn't reach out for it right away. Instead, I looked up at him, finally made real eye contact and saw warmth and compassion, and best of all, understanding. He believes me he believes me he believes me.
“Please call this lady and go see her. She will help you to understand everything better.” His voice matched his eyes. Kind and gentle and sympathetic. "You did nothing wrong. You are the victim. And you did the right thing when you had him arrested. Okay?"
“Okay” I said and took the card. It was for a counselor.
“By the way, you cannot drop the charges here. You can only do that when you go to court. In the meantime, make that appointment. Promise?”
And I did go see her. And she did present the idea of emotional abuse to me. But I stopped the counseling after three sessions. Because my brain was still wired wrong and none of it made sense. I wasn't ready to accept that I’d been emotionally abused and manipulated and psychologically beaten down. No way would that happen to me. No way would I allow such a thing. No way no way no way no way.
I wasn’t ready to travel on the healthy path the police officer had pointed me towards when I met him because I was in denial. But his words continued to echo in my mind "You are the victim." Every day of the week. And when I finally began to understand - and accept - what that meant, a year and a half later, the denial was replaced by grief. The realization that sixteen years of my life had been spent this way sent me crashing so badly that I was in desperate need of help. That’s when I was finally ready to deal with the truth. And my journey of healing began.
To be continued... (click here)